The Canadian outdoor company Recreational Barrel Works (RBW) doesn’t show any sign of slowing down with their canoe tripping gear. The company started off simple a few years back, selling waterproof blue barrels for paddlers. Then came cozy harnesses to help haul them across the portage. Next were coloured storage bags and coolers designed for separating your granola from your sack of wine. And then they started making canoe packs—really well-designed canoe packs.

Business has been booming, and RBW continues to add new products and tweak existing gear. Here’s what’s new for 2023.


EXPEDITION Canoe Pack (Enhancements):

expedition packsRecreational Barrel WorksThe RBW large volume Expedition Canoe Pack now has two extra padded handles attached to the sides, closer to the bottom of the pack and just below the pocket opening. That brings the total to seven handles on the pack. Personally, I believe you can’t have too many handles to grab while loading and unloading a pack in and out of the canoe. Some paddlers were also wanting an internal frame—and now that’s possible by adding an optional internal frame. Another small but effective bonus: "Easy-Snug” hip-belt adjustment buckles that can be easily handled with one hand. Perfect! That gives me an extra hand to swat mosquitoes with while on the portage.


TRIPPER Canoe Pack (Enhancements):

Canoe BackpackRecreational Barrel WorksThe Tripper—my favourite of the RBW’s canoe packs—now has a zippered, pleated pocket on the lid just like the Expedition Canoe Pack. It’s a great addition and now gives you a place to store gear you’ll need quick and easy: bug repellent, sunscreen, lip balm, snacks and bear spray. The Tripper also has a grand total of seven handles now to help you toss your pack in or wrench it out of the canoe for every portage. It comes in a new green/black colour combo in addition to the original red/black.


Minimalist Barrel Harness (Enhancement):

barrel harness for paddling canoersRecreational Barrel Works

If you don’t need a full harness system to move your canoe barrel around, you can get RBW's simplistic “minimalist” barrel harness made with a few straps to grab hold of when balancing the barrel on top of a canoe pack or to lash it to your boat. This year, they’ve added high-visibility yellow webbing to the longer top and bottom straps, to make it easier to see and hold when top loading on the portage.


Bow Line Bag (New Product):

Bow Line new bagRecreational Barrel Works

The RBW bow line bag is a brand-new product for the company. It allows you to keep your bow (and stern) rope properly stored away rather than curled up in the bottom of your canoe like a ball of yarn knocked around by your pet cat. The rope is kept secure inside the bag with two cord locks, and a quick-release buckle attaches the bag on to your bow or stern. This bow line system also takes away the bad habit I have of using my rescue throw bag (a legal requirement in all Canadian canoes) for a bow line instead.


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